The Hoki Museum is Japan’s first and only museum dedicated to Hyperrealism, a style of painting in which artists strive to depict their subjects with camera-like precision. It opened its doors in November 2010, showcasing the collection of Hyperrealist art assembled by Masao Hoki after he stepped down from the helm of Hogy Medical five years earlier.
Hoki Museum, Chiba City
Kenichiro Ishiguro, “Turn the Dial to the Left” (2020) provokes questions about identity and time
“When my father began collecting art, he was interested in works that were immediately accessible,” says museum director Hiroko Hoki. “This led him to Hyperrealism, and initially the work of Sosuke Morimoto in particular.” A 1998 painting by Morimoto titled “Reclining Pose” was the official beginning of Hoki’s collection. Today, the museum has nearly 500 paintings by dozens of artists, most of whom are Japanese. Around 160 are on display at any given time, ranging from vividly captured landscapes to hyperreal portraits, often with startling, fantastical details.
Kenichiro Ishiguro’s “Gas Mask Lifestyle—Child Version” (2017) looks back at the viewer through a pane of glass
Museum director Hiroko Hoki discusses the Hoki Museum’s collection
An Architectural Marvel
To build the museum that houses his collection, Masao Hoki turned to architect Kazuhiko Yamanashi of Nikkei Sekken. Yamanashi was an acquaintance of more than thirty years who had designed the Hogy Medical building. He had also studied oil painting at university, and understood the unique needs of a gallery building, from light to climate control.
“Yamanashi decided that a square plot of land would be too boring, so he found a uniquely shaped patch of available land right next to Showa no Mori park instead,” says Hiroko. “My father’s only instructions were to design a building that people would be eager to enter.”
The finished museum is a dramatic assemblage of four gently curved corridors stacked together against the green of Showa no Mori park in the background. The design, which includes a 30-meter cantilever at the end of the first gallery, received a commendation from the Architectural Institute of Japan (AIJ) at the 2013 AIJ Awards.
The intriguing museum building set amid green surroundings invites visitors in to explore
Fine Art and Fine Dining
The museum has three stories, and exploring the full collection at a leisurely pace takes between one and two hours. The ground floor contains the entrance hall, museum shop, an Italian restaurant called Hanau—Hiroko is a graduate of Le Cordon Blue, Toyo, and the Hoki Museum offers food a cut above the usual museum fair—as well as Gallery 1. Gallery 1 is a long, narrow, space where visitors have their first encounter with the intricate, almost glowing work of Hyperrealist artists. It is also home to the museum’s regularly changing special exhibitions. The current exhibition is “Color by Color,” with paintings by Takaya Fujita, Masayuki Hara, and other artists curated by hue rather than subject or period.
Hanau, the Hoki Museum’s Italian restaurant, offers a gourmet dining experience
The latest LED lighting is used to show the paintings to best effect
One floor below are four more galleries (Galleries 2 through 5), as well as a cafe. Gallery 2 was originally dedicated to Sosuke Morimoto, but the museum has begun exhibiting younger artists there alongside Morimoto’s work. Gallery 3 contains a 3×5 meter painting by Hiroshi Noda, on display permanently. Although this floor is technically the first basement level, it is still partly above ground, and the cafe is lit by natural light.
A visitor considers Atsushi Suwa’s confronting Untitled (2010)
The lowest floor contains the final four galleries, along with several ceramic works by Hazan Itaya and other potters displayed as a kind of “palate cleanser” amid the painted canvases. The dramatic, black-walled Gallery 8 in particular is devoted to “My Best Work,” an exhibition which features work by 14 given painters at any given time. The museum invites painters to produce “representative work” specifically for this exhibition, and each painter’s work is displayed in their own glass-walled section of Gallery 8 for three years. As part of its efforts to encourage painters working in the Hyperrealist style, the museum also sponsors the Hoki Museum Awards, and exhibits the winning work after they are chosen.
A Portrait of Masao Hoki, founder of the museum, by Hiroshi Noda
Recovering from the Typhoon
In 2019, Chiba was among the areas in Japan heavily affected by Typhoon Hagibis. The museum was badly damaged, with 80 centimeters of water flooding its basement storage area. More than a hundred paintings were damaged. It took eight months of renovation, with watertight doors added to protect individual areas within the museum and all electrical facilities moved above ground, but the museum was able to open in 2020 in time to celebrate its ten-year anniversary, and has welcomed visitors ever since.
“A single Hyperrealist painting can take four or five months to complete,” says Hiroko. “We aim to provide a setting where visitors can take the time to consider the months of thought and feeling that go into every canvas.”
• 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (last admission 30 min. before closing)
• Closed on Tuesdays, except when a public holiday falls on a Tuesday (in which case the museum is open that day and closed on Wednesday that week).
• Also closed during the year-end and New Year holiday period, the August holiday periods, and in late May and mid-November for exhibit changes.
• By public transport: Take the JR Sotobo Line to Toke Station, exit via the station’s south exit, and then ride an Asumigaoka Brand New Mall-bound bus to the Asumigaoka Higashi 4-chome stop.
• By car: The museum is 15 minutes from the Nakano Interchange on Chiba Togane Road and 10 minutes from the Mobara Kita Interchange on the Ken-O Expressway. Paid parking for 40 cars is available at the museum.